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Topeka VFD stronger than ever

It’s been a year since the Topeka Volunteer Fire Departmentofficially reopened its main station, and the department is nowstronger than ever, according to its chief.

“It’s funny how sometimes you have to be knocked down to comeback stronger,” said Topeka Volunteer Fire Department Chief RoyceRenfroe.

An electrical short in the building’s wiring caused the firedepartment to burn to the ground on July 16, 2000.

There was never any doubt that the station would be rebuilt,Renfroe said, but firefighters, county supervisors, and state andfederal agencies took a few months to decide the best way tofinance and build the department.

The county finally rebuilt the exterior shell of the departmentand it was back in use by August 2001, but it wasn’t until Nov. 7,2002, that enough of the interior of the department was ready tohost a grand opening.

“It’s been a group effort to get the station back where it was,”Renfroe said. “To be honest, we’re in real good shape.”

The chief credits the dedication and work ethics of thevolunteers for the department’s strong recovery, citing their hardwork and for “sticking together as a team to get things done.”

Donations from other fire departments really helped them recoverfrom the loss of equipment, Renfroe said. The department can nowboast of a 1,000 gallon pumper, two tanker trucks, and a “brushtruck” used to fight small grass fires. One of the tankers wasobtained in the past year.

“We’ve had one addition, a 2,600 gallon tank truck,” he said.”It was donated by the Mississippi Forestry Commission under theirexcess property program.”

Meanwhile, work continues on the interior of the Topeka station.The first floor, which includes the truck bays, a kitchen and asmall office, is complete, but the upstairs rooms are still beingcompleted, he said.

The upstairs area will include an office, day room and meetingroom. The office is also complete, but work is just beginning onthe other two rooms.

“It takes time when its done on a volunteer basis,” Renfroesaid. “Steve (White) has done a lot of work on this station. Wewouldn’t be even this far along without him.”

While work progresses on the interior of the Topeka station, thedistrict can also expect to see a new substation in the TiltonCommunity soon, Renfroe said.

The chief credited District 3 Supervisor Calvin Rutland with thenew station.

“Calvin has really helped us with it,” he said. “He saw the needright away, and we began working on getting it funded andbuilt.”

The new station will be located at the intersection of Bryce andReid Mullins Roads, which is where the Highway 44 extension willtie in when construction begins on that project.

Site prep work on the Tilton station has already begun, Renfroesaid, and supervisors have laid the gravel base. The next step ispouring the foundation, but the chief said that may have to waituntil spring because of the weather.

More volunteer firefighters will be needed for that area whenthe station is complete, the chief said, and more volunteers fromthe Topeka area are always welcome. Some members of the Topekastation will be transferring to the Tilton station when itopens.